Social Security turns 70 today. Here are milestones in the history of old-age pensions and Social
Social Security turns 70 today. Here are milestones in the history of old-age pensions and Social Security:
1789: The new Congress and President George Washington approve pensions for disabled Revolutionary War veterans.
1875: American Express adopts the first private pension plan in U.S. industry. It covers only those workers who are at least 60 years old, who have 20 years of company service and who become incapacitated.
1909: The first federal old-age pension is introduced in Congress.
1911: Massachusetts adopts the first contributory pension plan for state employees.
1914: The first state law providing old-age pensions and abolishing almshouses is enacted by Arizona. The law is judged unconstitutional two years later.
1920: Congress and President Woodrow Wilson create a civil service retirement and disability fund for federal workers.
1923: Montana enacts an old-age pension law. It is the first pension law judged constitutional. Similar laws are struck down in Pennsylvania and Nevada, but California and Wyoming laws are later allowed to stay on the books.
1929: The stock market crashes. Black Tuesday -- Oct. 29 -- becomes the symbolic start of the Great Depression.
1932: With unemployment at 25 percent, voters turn President Herbert Hoover out of the White House for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1935: FDR signs the Social Security Act into law Aug. 14 to "give some measure of protection ... against a poverty-ridden old age." The law calls for benefits to go to retired workers 65 and older, but Americans have a life expectancy of only 62.
1937: The first Social Security payroll taxes are collected. The first benefits are paid as single lump-sum payments. Retired Cleveland motorman Ernest Ackerman gets the first lump-sum check -- for 17 cents.
1939: Congress amends the Social Security Act to add dependents of retired workers and survivors of covered workers who die before retirement.
1940: The first monthly Social Security check is cut to Ida Mae Fuller of Ludlow, Vt. It totals $22.54.
1945: President Harry Truman proposes comprehensive, prepaid medical coverage through Social Security.
1950: Congress increases Social Security benefits for the first time since Social Security began.
1954: The Social Security Act is amended to cover the disabled.
1962: Workers get the option of retiring at age 62 with reduced benefits.
1965: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare bill, providing health-care coverage to persons 65 and over.
1971: The Census Bureau reports for the first time that America's elderly are no longer the poorest segment of the U.S. population.
1972: President Richard Nixon signs the law giving Social Security recipients a 20 percent raise and providing for automatic yearly cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) based on the annual increase in consumer prices.
1975: COLAs take effect. Ida Mae Fuller, the first retiree to draw a monthly Social Security check, dies at 100 after receiving more than $22,000 in benefits over 35 years.
1983: With Social Security months from insolvency, Congress adopts recommendations of a commission named by President Ronald Reagan and chaired by Alan Greenspan. The changes raise the payroll tax, gradually raise the retirement age for people retiring in the 21st century to 67 and bring federal workers under Social Security. The changes are supposed to keep the system fully solvent until 2058.
1994: Social Security's trustees report the system won't be able to pay full benefits by 2029 without changes under the weight of 76 million baby-boom retirees.
1998: President Bill Clinton calls for "saving Social Security first" and not spending the first budget surplus in 30 years until he and Congress agree on a long-term fix for Social Security. A White House task force deadlocks on reforms, but suggests investing some Social Security payroll taxes in the stock market.
2000: Social Security trustees say the '90s economic boom has given the system until 2037 before it exhausts its reserves.
With the turn of the century comes a longer-lived nation: The average woman, who died at 51 in 1900, now lives to 79, while the average man, who died at 48 a century ago, lives to 74.
Social Security reform becomes an issue in the 2000 presidential race, with Republican George W. Bush endorsing earmarking some payroll taxes for private investment accounts, while Democrat Al Gore calls for preserving the current system but giving new tax breaks for people to open retirement investment accounts atop Social Security.
2001: President Bush makes tax cuts, not Social Security reform, his top domestic priority as the nation falls into recession and the stock-market bubble bursts. A blue-ribbon Bush commission of private-accounts supporters can't agree on a plan to overhaul Social Security.
2004: Bush wins a second term, with a majority of the popular vote. His platform calls for Social Security private accounts, but doesn't make them a campaign centerpiece.
2005: Bush uses his State of the Union address to announce that his top domestic priority for his second term is overhauling Social Security. White House aides say the plan calls for diverting up to 4 percent of pay from the Social Security payroll tax to private accounts but acknowledge the change will actually cause Social Security to fall short of money before the new 2041 date that Social Security trustees now say the system won't be able to pay full benefits.
Bush later embraces a formula change that will result in cutting promised benefits to all but the poorest workers for people now under 55. A House Republican plan for private Social Security accounts, to be voted on after Labor Day, doesn't include provisions to make the system solvent long-term, but is expected to address the growing crisis in traditional private pension plans. Senate Republicans could not agree on any Social Security plan before leaving for the monthlong August recess.
-- Scripps Howard